US shifts assault ship to the Mediterranean to deter risk of Israel-Lebanon conflict escalating

Published June 28, 2024

WASHINGTON (AP) – The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp entered the eastern Mediterranean Sea this week as the U.S. positions warships to try to keep fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon from escalating into a wider war in the Middle East.

While the Wasp has the capability to assist in the evacuation of civilians if full-scale war breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah along the Lebanon border, that´s not the primary reason it was rotated in, a U.S. official said. “It´s about deterrence,” the official said.

A second U.S. official said the rotation is similar to how the U.S. sent the USS Bataan assault ship into the waters around Israel shortly after Hamas´ Oct. 7 attack on the country, with the vessel remaining for months in the eastern Mediterranean to help provide options and try to contain the conflict. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive operational details.

U.S. European Command, which is responsible for ships operating in the Mediterranean, announced the move this week, saying the Wasp and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard would sail with the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, which is used to transport Marines, landing craft, vehicles and cargo. The Oak Hill is already in the Mediterranean.

The Wasp also is sailing with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York, which can deliver troops either by on-deck helicopters or landing vessels.

It all comes as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and Israel have exchanged near-daily cross-border strikes since the Oct. 7 attacks that launched the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, and they have been escalating gradually.



RELATED: The U.S. readies to evacuate Americans from Lebanon if fighting between Israel and Hezbollah intensifies

U.S. officials are increasingly concerned Israel is going to carry out airstrikes and a possible ground offensive in Lebanon in the coming weeks.

Israeli security forces examine a site hit by a rocket fired from Lebanon in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, on March 27.Ariel Schalit / AP file
Published June 27, 2024

TEL AVIV — The Pentagon is moving U.S. military assets closer to Israel and Lebanon to be ready to evacuate Americans as fighting between Israel and Hezbollah intensifies, according to three U.S. defense officials and a former U.S. official familiar with the plans.

The USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, and Marines from the 24th Expeditionary Unit, which is special operations capable, moved into the Mediterranean on Wednesday to join the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill and another ship in their amphibious ready group, according to the Marine Corps. The Wasp will operate in the eastern Mediterranean to be ready for a Military Assisted Departure and other missions, the officials said.

The Wasp and the Marine Expeditionary Unit are also intended to project military power and be a deterrent to regional escalation, according to a U.S. official familiar with the plans.

The move comes as tensions continue to mount and cross-border fire increases between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Israel is going to carry out airstrikes and a possible ground offensive in Lebanon in the coming weeks, the officials said.




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